Oppia'nus（Ὀππιανός.) Under this name there are extant two Greek hexameter poems, one on fishing, Ἁλιευτικά, and the other on hunting, Κυνηγετικά; as also a prose paraphrase of a third poem on hawking, Ἰξευτικά. These were, till towards the end of the last century, universally attributed to the same person; an opinion which not only nade it impossible to reconcile with each other all the passages relating to Oppian that are to be found in ancient writers, but also rendered contradictory the evidence derived from the perusal of the poems themselves. At length, in the year 1776, J. G. Schneider in his first edition of these poems threw out the conjecture that they were not written by the same individual, but by two persons of the same name, who have been constantly confounded together; an hypothesis, which, if not absolutely free from objection, certainly removes so many difficulties, and moreover affords so convenient a mode of introducing various facts and remarks which would otherwise be inconsistent and contradictory, that it will be adopted on this occasion. The chief (if not the only) objection to Schneider's conjecture arises from its novelty, from its positively contradicting some ancient authorities, and from the strong negative fact that for nearly sixteen hundred years no writer had found any trace of more than one poet of the name of Oppian: But the weight of this antecedent difficulty is probably more than counterbalanced by the internal evidence in favour of Schneider's hypothesis; and with respect to the ancient testimonies to be adduced on either side, it will be seen that he pays at least as much deference to them as do those who embrace the opposite opinion. The chief reason in favour of his opinion is the fact that the author of the "Halieutica" was not born at the same place as the author of the "Cynegetica," an argument which some persons have vainly attempted to overthrow by altering the text of the latter poem. The other, which is scarcely less convincing, though not so evident to everybody's comprehension, arises from the difference of style and language observable in the two poems, which is so great as to render it morally impossible that they could have been written by the same person: for, though it may be said that this. difference only shows that the author improved in writing by practice, this answer will not bear examination, as in the first place the inferior poem (viz. the "Cynegetica") was written after, not before, the other; and secondly, the author is commonly said to have died at the early age of thirty, which scarcely affords sufficient time for so great an alteration and improvement to have taken place. The points relating to each poem separately will therefore be first mentioned, and afterwards some historical facts commonly related concerning one of the authors, though it is difficult to determine which.
Works attributed to Oppian
Ἁλιευτικά. is said by (probably) all authorities to have been born in Cilicia, though they are not so well agreed as to the name of his native city. The author of an anonymous Greek Life of Oppian says it was either Corycus or Anazarba, Suidas says Corycus, and this is probably confirmed by Oppian himself, in the following passage :--
This passage, however, can hardly be fairly said to determine the point, for (as if to show the uncertainty of almost everything relating to Oppian) while Schneider considers that it proves that the poet was born at Corycus, Fabricius and others have adduced it as evidence to show that he was not. Respecting his date there has been equal difference of opinion. Athenaeus says (i. p. 13) he lived shortly before his own time, and Athenaeus flourished, according to Mr. Clinton (Fasti Rom. A. D. 194), about the end of the second century. This testimony may be considered as almost, conclusive with respect to Oppian's date, though it has been attempted to evade it, either by placing Athenaeus more than thirty years later 2, or by considering the passage in question to be a spurious interpolation. It is also confirmed by Eusebius Chron. ap. S. Hieron. vol. viii. p. 722, ed. Veron. 1736) and Syncellus (Chronogr. pp. 352, 353, ed. Paris. 1652), who place Oppian in the year 171 (or 173), and by Suidas, who says he lived in the reign of "Marcus Antoninus," i. e. not Caracalla, as Kuster and others suppose, but M. Aurelius Antoninus, A. D. 161-180. If the date here assigned to Oppian be correct, the emperor to whom the "Halieutica" are dedicated, and who is called (1.3) “γαίης ὕπατον κράτυς, Ἀντωνῖνε,” will be M. Aurelius; the allusions to his son (1.66. 78, 2.683, 4.5, 5.45) will refer to Commodus; and the poem may be supposed to have been written after A. D. 177, which is the year when the latter was admitted to a participation of the imperial dignity. If the writer of the "Halieutica" be supposed to have lived under Caracalla, the name "Antoninus" will certainly suit that emperor perfectly well, as the appellation "Aurelius Antoninus" was conferred upon him when he was appointed Caesar by his father, A. D. 196. (Clinton's Fasti Rom.) But if we examine the other passages above referred to, the difficulty of applying theme to Caracalla will be at once apparent, as that emperor (as far as we learn from history) had no son, --though some persons have even gone so far as to conjecture that he must have had one, because Oppian alludes to hint ! (Schneider's first ed. p. 346.) The "Halieutica" consist of about 3500 hexameter lines, divided into five books, of which the first two treat of the natural history of fishes, and the other three of the art of fishing. The author displays in parts considerable zoological knowledge, but inserts also several fables and absurdities, --and that not merely as so much poetical ornament, but as grave matter of fact. In this respect, however, he was not more credulous than most of his contemporaries, and many of his stories are copied by Aelian and later writers. The following zoological points in the poem are perhaps the most worthy of notice. He mentions (1.217, &c.) the story of the remora, or sucker (ἐχενη̈́ς) being able to stop a ship when under full sail by sticking to the keel, and reproves the incredulity of those who doubt its truth (cf. Plint Synpos. 2.7); he was aware of the peculiarity of the cancellus, or hermit-crab (καρκινάς), which is provided with no shell of its own, but seizes upon the first empty one that it can find (1.320, &c.) ; he gives a beautiful and correct description of the nautilus (1.338, &c.); he says that the murena. or lamprey, copulates with land-serpents, which, for the time, lay aside their venom (1.554, &c.) he notices (2.56, &c. and 3.149, &c.) the numbness caused by the touch of the torpedo (νάρκη) ; and the black fluid emitted by the sepia, or cuttlefish, by means of which it escapes its pursuers (3.156, &c.); he says that a fish called "I sarrus" copulates with goats, and that it is caught by the fisherman's dressing himself up in a goat's skin, and so enticing it on shore (4.308, &e.); he several times mentions the dolphin, calls it, for its swiftness and beauty, the king among fishes, as the eagle among birds, the lion among beasts, anid the serpent among reptiles (2.533, &c.), and relates (5.448, &c.) an anecdote, somewhat similar to those mentioned by Pliny (Plin. Nat. 9.8), and which he says happened about his own time, of a dolphin that was so fond of a little boy that it used to come to him whenever he called it by its name, and suffered him to ride upon its back, and at last was supposed to have pined away with grief on account of his death. (Penny Cyclop. s. iv.) in point of style and language, as well as poetical embellishment, the Halieutica are so much superior to the Cynegetica, that Schneider (as we have seen) considers this fact to furntiish one of the strongest proofs in favour of his hypothesis; and it is probable that the greater part of the praise that has been bestowed upon Oppian in a poetical point of view should be considered as referring to this poem only. A paraphrase of the "Halieutica" in Greek prose, bearing the name of Eutecnius, is still in existence in several European libraries, but has never been published. (See Lambec. Bibl. Vindolt. vol. ii. p. 260, &100.7.488, &c. ed. Kollar.)
*)Aqie/wn de\ prw/ta peri/frona peu/qeo qh/rhn,
oi(/hn h(mete/rhs e)rikude/os e)ntu/nontai
pa/trhs e)nnaeth=res u(pe\r *Sarphdo/nos a)/krhs,
o(/ssoi q' *(Ermei/ao po/lin, nausi/kluton a)/stu
*Kwru/kion, nai/ousi kai\ a)mfiru/thn *)Eleou=san.3.205, &c.
EditionsThe two poems attributed to Oppian have generally been published together. The only separate edition of the Greek text of the "Halieutica" is the "editio princeps," by Phil. Junta, Florent. 1515, 8vo., a book that is valuable not only for its rarity, but also for the correctness of the text.
TranslationsA Latin translation in hexameter verse by Laur. Lippits was published in 1478, 4to. Florent. (of which not uncommon volume a particular account is given by Dibdin in his Biblioth. Spencer. vol. ii. p. 183), and several times reprinted. It was translated into English verse by Diaper and J. Jones, Oxford, 8vo. 1722; into French, by J. M. Limies, Paris, 8vo. 1817, and into Italian by A. M. Salvini, Firenze, 8vo. 1728.
II. the Κυνηγετικά）3The author of the Cynegetica, Κυνηγετικά, was a native of Apameia or Pella in Syria. as he himself plainly tells us in the following passage, where, speaking of the river Orontes, he says :--
And again, after speaking of the temple of Memnon in the neighbourhood of Apameia, he proceeds :--
au)to\s d' e)n mesa/toisin e)paigi/zwn pedi/oisin,
ai)e\n a)ezo/menosw kai\ tei/xeos e)ggu\s o/deu/wn,
xe/rson o(mou= kai\ nh=son, e)mh\n po/lin, u(/dati xeu/wn.2.125, &c.
In order to avoid the conclusion to which these passages lead respecting the birth-place of their author, it has been proposed to alter in the former, σ᾿μήν into ἔβη, and, in the latter, ήμετέρης into ὑμετέρης; but these emendations, which are purely conjectural, have not been received into the text by any one but the proposer. The author addresses his poem to the emperor Caracalla, whom he calls (1.3) οὔτι κέρας κερόεν) and in the allusion to the pencils of hail (ἀβληχραὶ κεραῖαι) with which they are tipped." Hie adds, "That the animal must have been seen alive by Oppian is evident from his remark on the brilliancy of the eves and the halting motion of the hinder limbs" (Penny cyclop). In style, language, and poetical merit, the "Cynegetica" are flr inferior to the "Halieutica." Schneider, indeed, calls the poem "duruim, inconcinnum, fornma total incompositumni et saepissime ab ingenio, usu, et analogia Graeci sermonis abhorrens" (Pref. to second ed. p. xiv.), and thinks that when Dan. Heinsius spoke of the Latinisms that deformed Oppian's style (Dissert. de Nonni "Dionys." ap. P. Cunaei Animadters. p. 196). he was alluding especially to the "Cynegetica."
a)lla\ ta\ me\n kata\ ko/smon a)ei/somen eu)re/a ka/llh,
pa/trhs h(mete/rhs e)rath=| *Pimplhi/+di molph=|.2.156.
EditionsThe earliest edition of the Greek text of this poem, apart from the "Halieutica," appeared in 1549, 4to. Paris, ap. Vascosanum. It was also published by Belin de Ball, Argentor. 1786, large 8vo, Gr. et Lat., with learned notes, too often deformed by personal controversy with Schneider. The editor intended to publish the "Halieutica" in a second volume, but of this only forty ages were printed, which are rarely to be met with.
TranslationsIt was translated into Latin verse by Joannes Bodinus, Paris, 1555, 4to.; and also by David Peifer, whose translation was made in 1555, but first published in Schneider's second edition, Lips. 1813. There is a French translation by Fiorent Chrestien, Paris, 1575, 4to., and by Belin de Ballu, Strasb. 1787, 8vo. An English version of the first book by J. Mawer, Lond. 1736, 8vo. A German version by S. H. Lieberkühn, Leipz. 1755, 8vo. An anonymous Greek prose paraphrase of part of the poem was published by Andr. Mustoxvdes and Dem. Schinas, in their Συλλογὴ Ἀποσπασμάτων Ἀνεκδοτῶν Ἑλληνικῶν, Venet. 1817, 8vo., which is probably the same as that which is commonly attributed to Euteenius (see Lambec. Biblioth. Vindob. l.c.).
Editions of Both PoemsThe earliest edition of both poems is the Aldine, Venet. 1517, 8vo., containing the Greek text, with the Latin translation of the "Halieutica," by Laur. Lippius. The most complete edition that has hitherto been published is that by J. G. Schneider, Argent. 1776, 8vo. Gr. et Lat., with copious and learned notes, containing also a Greek paraphrase of the "Ixeutica" that will he mentloned below. The editor published some additional notes and observations in his "Analecta Critica," Francof. 1777, 8vo. fasc. i. p. 31, &c. This edition was executed when Schneider was a young man, in conjunction with Brunck, who assisted him in the "Cynegetica ;" and accordingly it exhibits mafy bold corrections of the text, which he withdrew in his second edition, published in 1813, Lips. 8vo. This edition is unfinished, and contains only the Greek text of the two poems, Peifer's Latin translation of the "Cynegetica," mentioned above, some short notes relating to the text, and a preface, in which Schneider repeats his conviction that the "Halieutica" and "Cynegetica" were written by two different persons, and replies to the objections of Belin de Ballu. The last edition of the two poems is that published by F. Didot, together with Nicander and Marcellus Sidetes, in his collection of Greek classical authors, Paris, large 8vo. 1846, edited by F. S. Lehrs. It contains a Latin prose translation and the Greek paraphrase of the "Ixeutica," but (it is believed) is at present unfinished.
TranslationsA Latin translation of both poems was published in 1555, Paris, 4to., that of the "Halieutica" in verse by Laur. Lippius, and that of the "Cynegetica" in prose, by Adr. Turnebus; and an Italian translation of both poems by A. M. Salvini was published in 1728, Firenze, 8vo.
III. The Poem on Hawking (Ἰξευτικά）If we assume that there were two poets of the name of Oppian, there are two other questions relating to them that require to be examined into: 1. To which are we to refer the biographical particulars contained in the anonymous Greek Life of Oppian ? and 2. Which, if either, was the author of the poem on hawking, Ἰξευτικά. 1. The Greek Life states that Oppian was a native of Cilicia, and that his father's name was Agesilaus, and his mother's Zenodota. He received an excellent education in all the liberal sciences, especially music, geometry, and grammar, under the personal superintendence of his father, who was one of the principal persons in his native city, and who suffered himself to be so engrossed by his philosophical studies, that, when on one occasion the emperor Severus visited his city, he neglected to pay his respects to him along with the other chief magistrates of the place. For this offence Agesilaus was banished to the island of Melita, and was accompanied in his exile by his son, who was then about thirty years of age. Here Oppian wrote (or perhaps rather finished) his poems, which he took to Rome after the death of Severus, A. D. 211, and presented to his son "Antoninus" (i. e. Caracalla), or, according to Sozomen (Hist. Eclcles. praef.), to Severus himself. The emperor is said to have been so much pleased with the poems, that he not only repealed, at his request, the sentence of his father's banishment, but also presented him with a piece of gold (στατὴρ χρυσοῦς, ορ νόυισμα χρυδοῦν, probably about fifteen shillings and sixpence) for each verse they contained. Shortly after his return to his native country he died of some pestilential disease, at the early age of thirty. His countrvmen raised a monument in his honour, and inscribed on it five verses (which are preserved), which lament his early death, and allude to his poems, but not in such definite terms as to enable us to decide which are the poems intended. The anonymous biographer does not mention the "Halieutica," but only the "Cynegetica" and "Ixeutica." It is quite clear (if the hypothesis adopted in this article be correct) that the whole of these particulars cannot apply to either of the poets of the name of Oppian, nor, perhaps, is it possible to decide for certain how they are to be apportioned to each. Probably the epitaph and the early death belong to the Cilician, that is, to the author of the "Halieutica"; and the anecdote respecting the "golden verses" may relate to the other poet. 2. With respect to the poem on hawking, Ἰξευτικά, if it is to be attributed to either of the Oppians, it probably belongs to the younger; but Schneider considers that it is more probably the work of Dionysius.
EditionsThe poem itself, which is said to have consisted of five books, is no longer extant, but there is a Greek prose paraphrase of three books by Eutecnius. This was first published with a Latin translation by Eras. Windingins, Hafniae, 1702, 8vo., and is inserted in Schneider's former edition, and in Didot's. The first book treats of tame birds and birds of prey, the second of waterfowls ; and the third of the various modes of catching birds. Of the poetical merits of the work, as it no longer exists in the form of a poem, it is scarcely possible to judge.
See Fabric. Βιβλ. Γρ. vol. v. p. 590, &c. ed. Harles; J. G. Schneider's preface and notes to his frist edition, and the preface to the second; Hoffmann's Lex. Bibliograph. art. "Oppianus," by F. Bitter, in Ersch and Gruber's Encyclopädie.[W.A.G]